No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

untitledThanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about:When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments hurt. They impact our minds and our moods and poison the dinner environment. And let’s not forget that such toxicity isn’t contained to that day. We remember those negative messages for years to come. Girls internalize it.  Boys learn that this is a practice that girls do AND that girls should indeed hold them to such a narrow standard. Frankly, it stinks. So let’s change the dialogue we say to others and to ourselves.

(4) Start a new tradition: Some go around the table and say what they’re grateful for while others retell old family stories. In the spirit of Fat Talk Free Holidays, why not start a tradition of celebrating our strengths? Ask everyone to say 1-3 things that they feel are assets they possess. You can also go back around the table and flip it—what are 1-3 assets you admire about someone else at the table? This is not about competition or comparison but rather, about seeing people for their strengths rather than their deficits.

(5) Nip it in the bud: If someone starts to “fat talk,” pull them aside and remind them kindly about your Fat-Talk-Free Holiday plan. While some adults may be able to filter out opinions about fat, calories, and weight, children and teens are very impressionable. Your silence, in this case, can be seen as an endorsement of the behavior and what the guest is saying. Speak up so that everyone can get back to focusing on enjoying family, food, friends, and some fat-talk free time.

Dr. Lynne says…

(1) Think first, speak second. The messages you send your girls really matter. They listen closely and watch even closer. Are you commenting on your need to diet? Do you identify some foods as “good” and others as “bad.” At the dinner table recently I heard a mom say, “Eat your dinner so we ca get good stuff, the dessert.” Desert can indeed be yummy, but it’s not the good stuff. Stop labeling foods, eat a touch of it all without comments and judgment. Fat-Talk-Free is the way to be!

(2) Lift one another up. Family meals are not the time for devaluation and gossip. No need to criticize those who are not present or take advantage of the audience to make yourself feel better by putting others down. Turn conversation into opportunities to share experiences, learn what your family members have been up to and celebrate one another’s passions.

(3) Offer to share the space. Do you get anxious each holiday knowing that your mother or mother-in-law is going to steal the limelight with her extravagant meal offerings, only to hear that you forgot to add the garlic to the mashed potatoes? Call ahead of time and offer to host an evening in your own home so that you can all have an opportunity to throw a family gathering the way you like it. Perhaps Thanksgiving is always at one home, ask to switch it up. Have dinner Wednesday evening at your own home and invite everyone you love. Celebrate everyone’s passion for entertaining by telling family members they can bring a favorite dish. Just because Thanksgiving has always been one way doesn’t mean this year it has to be the same old status quo.

(4) Add an activity to the holiday weekend. Family activities like sports, games and crafts bring each other joy. Consider a family game of football, a walk in the forest, or a game of Bananagrams. You can find a list of fun family activities for your fridge in The Family Coach Method. Rebecca Cohen offers great tips on planting and playing outdoors. Download her family activity list and put some family fun in your holiday.

(5) Do something nice for others. There is no better way to teach your children to give back than to offer to make crafts with elders at a local senior center, serve a meal at the local food pantry or clean out your closet and give away what you don’t need. Enjoying a family meal is only one aspect of the holiday experience.

Conclusion

This holiday season is one you get to design. So move away from old habits and introduce new ones with some thoughtful planning and preparation. You may be surprised by how others willingly join in.

Are you ready to set the stage?  Are you ready to speak up?  We all must be accountable for stopping fat-talk at our holiday tables. Do it for yourself. Do it for the other girls and women at the table.  Do it to reinforce the message to boys and men that beautiful women come in all different shapes and sizes.  This Thanksgiving, let’s toast to a very happy, healthy, fat-talk free holiday! People will thank you for it…

Note: Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book is Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.

“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home

Rebecca Tishman, our teen college blogger, has openly told our readers her story of eating disorders and recovery over the last 2 years. Her frank insight and bold discussion has helped many understand the many facets of eating disorders during the teen years and how they can be a support to others who are facing similar challenges.  Today, Rebecca writes about her eating disorder relapse. 

Relapse from an eating disorder is not uncommon. Studies show that 1/3 of women treated for anorexia or bulimia relapse within 9 years and 40% of patients with anorexia relapse within 1 year of being treated at an inpatient eating disorder facility. While Rebecca is in no way alone, there is no doubt that this article was likely hard for Rebecca to write. Please write in your support, comments, questions, encouraging words, and congratulations for her courage during her ongoing fight against ED either here or on my Facebook site where she’ll also be interacting with readers.

blog_rebeccat2-230x300“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home by our college blogger, Rebecca Tishman

I’ll be honest. As much as I’d like to say that I’m fully recovered from my eating disorder (ED), it looks as though ED’s still got me on my toes.

Back in May I finished my first year of college. What a feat, right? Two days later I moved to North Carolina for an internship opportunity I secured there at an artist collaborative. Things seemed to be going great at first. I did my own grocery shopping. I cooked meals everyday.  I was able to clear my mind of all the stress that developed over the past year and exercised in an appropriate amount. Yes! I was staying in control of my Eating Disorder instead of the other way around.

But then it happened. I had naively let my guard down and allowed ED sneak his way back in. I was relapsing.

It was about halfway through my stay there. I somersaulted so quickly. My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again forced me to choose to return home earlier than I had originally intended to so I could see my team of doctors and be closer to my parents’ support.

I remember a time when I was in treatment. One of the tasks they gave us was identifying what relapse meant to us. They asked us; what would the signs of our own relapses would look like? They then asked us to give them to our family so that they knew what our relapse would look like and what signs to look for. This exercise helped me to identify the very painful truth. It was happening and I needed to do something about it.

The signs of relapse are different for everyone.  Here were some of mine:

  • Disconnection: Feeling disconnected from friends and family-whether physically far away from them or standing right next to them I felt like we were in different solar systems
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol to escape the feelings
  • Food intake: Basing the amount of food intake on whether I exercised and how much I exercised
  • Skipping meals: Intentionally skipping meals-while missing a meal once in awhile is not a definite sign of relapse, going into the day intending to skip meals and not making up for them at the next meal was a red flag for me
  • Eating “safe” foods: rather than enjoying what I was cooking and eating, I felt like I was in control of what I was eating and drinking by returning to my “safe” foods and beverages
  • Eating by myself: Not wanting to eat in front of people
  • Withdrawing: Wanting to be alone all day-I was constantly afraid of being left out, ignored, not wanted, so I recoiled into myself and stayed home for days on end instead of venturing out and making friends
  • Being afraid of food: Whether I ate an entire pizza or a single grape I felt like I was binging and instantly wanted to purge; in order to avoid that feeling I avoided eating (not a healthy solution!)
  • Using attention-seeking behavior to speak for me: often I use my ED to speak the words I don’t know how to voice

Of course, identifying the signs of relapse is a good first step, but it takes more than that – one then has to change those behaviors.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to change my relapse behaviors:

  • Returning to my original nutritionist: I’ve trusted her opinion for almost four years so having her set up a meal plan and give me permission to eat gave me back some control and helped me feel like all of those foods were now “safe” foods
  • Ridding my wardrobe of “skinny” clothes: I no longer want to torture myself with the reminder of the body I had when I was very sick so I got rid of all the clothes that do not fit or that I have had since before I went to treatment
  • Recommitting to recovery every morning: it’s tough but when I wake up I try to tell myself “today I am committing to a better life which one day will be ED free”
  • Having an open dialogue with my team and my family: They can’t possibly help me if they don’t know what is going on so I have to remind myself to be honest with them.
  • Making a plan to move forward: I’ve decided to come home once a month so that I can see my parents and my doctors and can try to be that much more connected to them all

I’m trying to learn from each slip-up in my recovery in order to avoid doing the same thing again. In doing so I learned how important it is to identify what is truly my own behavior and what is an ED behavior, what ED behaviors still exist after all this time, and what new ones are starting to crop up. Once I can identify them for myself I’m that much closer to changing the behavior and ultimately being truly recovered. Today that seems impossible but tomorrow it could be a reality if I continue to diligently call my behaviors into question.

Thank you, Rebecca, for your bravery and your honesty.  We are rooting for you every step of the way.  Readers; please leave your comments here or on my facebook site and Rebecca will surely read and respond either place.

drrobynsig170

Some other articles by Rebecca Tishman:

Is Vegetarianism feeding some girls’ eating disorders? HERE

Speaking out against Fat Talk while Recovering HERE

High School’s Helping Kids Down the Path of Eating Disorders

The Rub with Greasy Grub

Summer Renaissance: The Tale of a Body Image Rebirth

The Powerful Word of the Month for November is Generosity!

Between the power outage and preparing to speak at last week’s 100th year anniversary/52nd convention for the Girl Scouts, the introduction for Powerful Words’ Generosity Month is finally here!  Let’s encourage our children to give of their treasures, talents, time as well as their thanks to help and to acknowledge help of others.

Generosity Quotes:

handinhand-300x199“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” –Winston Churchill

“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.”  –Lao Tzu

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” –Mother Teresa

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” –Albert Pine

“He who cannot give anything away cannot feel anything either.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

“Spend time. Give recognition. Show gratitude. Generosity can hold great value even when it doesn’t cost a thing.” — Dr. Robyn Silverman

Are you part of the fat-talkin’ club? 7 Tips to Address the Problem with Friends

Are you a member of the Fat-Talkin’ Club?  There are chapters…worldwide.

blog_girlstalk-300x199It’s Fat Talk Free Week and, like every year, we are being challenged to drop the fat talk between friends.  This can be a tall order for many.  Why? Because fat-talking has become a habit and a bona fide, integrated component of many friendship circles.  Is it part of yours?

Let’s see.

Do you hear things like:

“You’re so skinny!

“I wish I had your legs!”

“I’m such a whale…pig…heifer…elephant…”

“I can’t believe I ate that.”

“I’m so fat…”

when you are with one or more of your friends?  Then you may be a card-carrying member of the Fat Talkin’ Club.

blog_girlstalk2-300x199So what can you do about it?

  1. Bring it up: This is the time to be assertive.  If you feel awkward, blame it on Fat Talk Free week.  You are welcome to blame it on me too! Discuss what you see happening and how it can be detrimental to the people you care about most.
  2. Challenge yourselves: Can you stop the fat talk for the week?  It would be even better if you could stop it for a consistent 21 days, as it has been stated that it takes 21 days to make a habit.  It may be the beginning of the end of your Fat Talkin’ Club.
  3. Redefine your interactions: What do you want out of your friendships? What do your friends want from them?  Take the time to discuss what is beneficial and damaging in a friendship so that everyone is on the same page.
  4. Create a Fat-Talk Free Zone: (I talk about this in my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat if you would like more detail) When you and your friends are together, make it a point to steer clear of fat talk. When someone breaks that rule, call them on it and refocus so you don’t all slide back into old habits.
  5. Break free of toxic friends: Not all friends are keepers.  It’s the truth.  If a friend makes you feel inferior, unworthy, critical, or ashamed, it’s time to speak up and change the dynamic or part ways.  Surround yourself with people who embrace who you are and bring out the best in you when you are with them.
  6. Spread the word: When new people come into your life, don’t be afraid to talk about your commitment to ending fat talk in your life.  You will likely find some great people who are excited to embark on the healthy relationship you bring up!
  7. Clear your own head: When you are in the privacy of your own head, are you still fat talking?  Breaking free of this negative pattern needs to happen when we are by ourselves just as much as it needs to happen in our friendship circles.  Catch yourself when you are doing it and counter act these thoughts with positive ones about yourself.  You can always call a friend for an encouraging word.

It’s time to make a change.  Make the commitment. End fat talk.  You can do it AND you are AMAZING!

Remember…

Unschooling: Is radical homeschooling right for your child?

Unschooling is a radical form of homeschooling that throws the books out the blog_unschooler-196x300 window on traditional learning. School [School newly corrected: Learning] takes place out of traditional school doors and on the child’s own terms. Today, I sat down with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, to discuss it.

How can this work?

(1) Know your child. Some children thrive in a less rigid, less structured, more free form education process. Some children are self propelled, self motivated, and ready to learn in many different kinds of ways. Other children thrive with structure and adult guidance.

(2) Know yourself: It may not sound like it, but this is an investment on the parents part. Self directed not mean by themselves.Unschooling doesn’t mean only exposed to what’s in front of you. Parents must be willing to get out, get their hands dirty, and take the road less traveled.  (There are lots of sites and blogs where parents and young people are sharing their experiences so you can see what this entails).

Why would people do this?

(1) Some parents may be dissatisfied with the local school system, their personal education growing up or even what traditional schools provide today.

(2) Some parents may have an exceptional child who has specific gifts that they believe would be better suited outside of the traditional classroom structure.

(3) They may want to nurture a passion of their child’s that they don’t feel the traditional local school has the time or curriculum to do.

Note: Some unschoolers will take a college class if they feel that this will help them to grow and learn what they are interested in as many they believe all avenues of learning should be tapped.

As a parent who may or may not be considering this– you may have some questions:

(1) Are there longitudinal studies? There are no long range statistics on if it’s working, not working, what’s working and what isn’t. Right now we’re going on faith and anecdotal evidence. Hopefully, studies will be provided in the coming years.

(2) Will there be gaps in their education? If the children are hyper-focused on one or two things, there may be concern that the fundamentals may be lost or delayed if they are not as exciting to learn. Even though unschooling is self-directed, parents will need to encourage some balance. After all, in order to delve into many topics of interest, reading, writing, and math are necessary. The philosophy here is; the children will learn what they need to learn at the time it’s necessary to learn it.

(3) What about socialization? Parents of all home-schooled children need to provide the socialization their children need to grow up as a well-rounded, social individual of our society. All children need to exposed to other children, away from parents, so they learn how to be with other kids.  If they aren’t in school, and other avenues aren’t provided, socialization can be an issue. (This is where programming like 4H, scouts, martial arts classes, sports, community theater and camps come in- many home-schooled children will take part in after-school programming or even get together with other home-schooled children during the day and learn together).

(4) Will they be exposed to enough variety? Parents need to ensure that their children are receiving diversified exposure that allow them to discover all their passions aside from the one they are already nurturing. If a child is really interested in one area, we still need to expose them to much more than that…or how are they going to discover all the passions they may have?

(5) Are they learning to persevere through tough subjects? Parents need to ensure that all children learn how to persevere and endure through subject matter that kids may not find all that intriguing but is necessary for their development. All children need to venture out of their comfort zones, try new things, and overcome challenges.

If college, then what?

If unschoolers want to go the more traditional route, they’ll have to do what every other student does and take the necessary tests to get placed. However, there is one major difference: they’ll provide a resume of learning rather than a traditional transcript. Some unschoolers will have to learn to take tests and focus in larger seminars if they haven’t been in that circumstance before. Only time will tell if there are significant gaps and when unschooling is right for a specific child.

What can we learn from unschooling?

Just as unschoolers can supplement their education with traditional school classes, those who go the traditional route, can supplement their child’s formal education with experiential learning in areas that truly excite them. Use some of your weekends, summer vacation, winter breaks, and after-school times to go the nontraditional route. Your child may want to do science camp in the summer, take trips to the zoo, dig in the dirt to learn about bugs, camp in the forest, or draw on a mountainside.

There are great things to learn out there beyond the school walls whether you are interested in unschooling, homeschooling, or traditional structured schooling. If you take nothing else away from the segment, I think that’s the bottom line here. The “recipe” for success is different for different children and different families– parents can and should explore a variety of different approaches to see what can work best for their child.

Let’s chat about it! Join me on Facebook or Twitter!

drrobynsig170

 

Next Twitter Chat 10/13! What to do about Pornified Halloween Costumes for Girls?

halloween_cop-150x150You probably don’t need someone to tell you that there has been a major shift in the “point” of Halloween lately as it pertains to young girls. We’ve moved from creative, scary, or funny costumes to sexy, sexier, and sexiest. Even childhood favorites, known for their youthful innocence have been pornified.

blog_halloween1-150x150Just check out Red Ridinghood and Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly, when I pressed on these tween/teen blog_halloween2 costumes, the costumes that came up under “compare similar items that customers also browsed were: “Red Hoodie- Sexy” and “Disney Aladdin Sassy”. Uh huh. That says a lot.

One of the things I find deeply disturbing is that marketing and wording is saving the butts of the advertisers. Remember when the ad for the sexualized push-up bra for 7 year olds became the fodder for firestorm a few months back? The advertisers merely changed the label of this item to “triangle swimsuit.” Somehow this was supposed to address the sexualization issue. Not exactly the solution we were looking for.

blog_halloween3-300x225Well, here we are again. Take a good look at these two “Little Bo Peep” costumes. The first is labeled “Little Bo Peep Tween Costume.” The second is labeled “Sexy Little Bo Peep Costume.” The first is size “preteen”, obviously, for tweens. The blog_halloween4 second is meant for adults. See a big difference? No? Hmmm. Look again.  Still no? Yeah. Me neither. The teddy bear is a nice attempt to making the whole costume feel a bit more youthful…dominatrix. And she is in flats rather than boots, right? Ugh.

(My colleague, Melissa Wardy, did an interesting comparison of the “cop costumes,” among others).

The issue here is that one costume after another is sexualized. Girls tell us that they feel they have 2 choices: Sexy or prudish. One of cool and daring, the other is lame and boring. Here is one teen’s explanation, more in depth.

So what are we supposed to do? Let’s talk about it. After a successful and intriguing twitter chat last month on the sexualization of girls, we’d love to invite you to join us on Thursday, October 13, 2011, at 9pm EST, 8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, and 6pm Pacific to our #girlsnow chat (formally #SaveGirlHood).

A peak at our powerful crew:

blog_audrey-brashich-300x226Audrey Brashich

 

Audrey Brashich has been involved in teen and women’s journalism since 1993. She’s worked and written for magazines such as Sassy, YM, Seventeen, Elle Girl, Cosmo Girl, Teen People, Lucky, Shape, Ms., Health and others. Her work focuses primarily on body image and understanding media influences–and she’s the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2006). Audrey has appeared on TV and radio in the US and Canada (CNN, NBC, CBS, Canada’s CBC). Her commentary has also appeared in USA TODAY, The Vancouver Sun, The Seattle Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Toronto Star and many others. She’s served on the board of directors for Mind on the Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering critical analysis of media messages, and consulted with national organizations such as Girls Inc. on their programming and policies for girls.

Amy Harman

blog_amy-harman-200x300Amy Harman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a wife and mother. She has worked as a therapist for several years, most recently as a therapist for women and girls with eating disorders. Because of her work with women and the examples of strong women around her, she has developed a desire help women realize their worth. While taking a break from working full-time, she has created a website to empower women by strengthening relationships and improving mental and emotional well-being. Visit her blog at becomingabetterwoman.com, follower her on Twitter @beabetterwoman, or like her Facebook page. Amy is concerned about the sexualization of young girls because part of becoming a better woman is leaving a better world to those who will be the women of tomorrow. In working with girls struggling with eating disorders, she has seen the harmful impact sexualized messages can make on young minds. She believes we have a duty to teach children the positive aspects of womanhood through example, discussion, and activism.

robyn_purple42-200x300Dr. Robyn Silverman

 

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a body image expert, parenting resource and child & teen development specialist who appears regularly on national TV such as The Today Show and Good Morning America. An award-winning writer, professional speaker and success coach, she has been the content consultant for 17 books and writes a character education/leadership curriculum called Powerful Words for top level after-school programs worldwide. Her most recent book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It, is based on her passion to help all girls reach their potential and highlight their strengths rather than their deficits. To learn more, please visitDrRobynSilverman.com, follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/DrRobynSilverman, or on twitter at @DrRobyn. You can also book Dr. Robyn for a speaking engagement: Please contact Dr. Robyn’s speaker’s bureau, American Program Bureau, Inc., or call her speaking agent Nancy Eisenstein directly at: 800.225.4575 Ext 1616 We can help our girls (and our boys!) thrive!

Nancy Gruver

blog_nancy-gruverNancy Gruver is founder of the groundbreaking safe social network and magazine for girls ages 8 and up, New Moon Girls, author of How To Say It® To Girls: Communicating With Your Growing Daughter(Penguin Putnam, 2004) and blogs on girls’ issues, parenting, and media. www.newmoon.com & www.daughters.com

blog_melissa-atkins-wardy-226x300Melissa Wardy

Melissa Wardy is the creator/owner of Pigtail Pals www.pigtailpals.com. A business owner, writer, and children’s advocate, her work has appeared on CNN, FOX News, and in the Ms. Magazine blog. She is the mom to a 5yo girl and 3yo boy and wants to see some big changes in the children’s marketplace. What originally began in 2009 as an empowering online t-shirt shop for little girls has now grown into a large online boutique that carries goods with the message to Redefine Girly and recognize our girls as “Smart ~ Daring ~ Adventurous”. We also have a line of tees for little boys called Curious Crickets. In 2010 Melissa began the Redefine Girly blog to educate parents on issues of gender stereotypes and sexualization that our children face. The blog and parent community quickly became known as the go-to place for parents to discuss these issues. In 2011 Melissa started presenting Media Literacy workshops for parents and educators helping them to understand how girlhood was changing, and in 2012 you’ll be able to read her book that brings everything full circle. Let’s change the way we think about our girls.

Hope to see you all, Thursday, October 13, at 9pm EST, 8pm CT, 7pm Mountain, and 6pm Pacific! Together; let’s talk about #GirlsNow!

drrobynsig170

 

7 Lessons The Life of Steve Jobs Can Teach Children (and Parents)

blog_stevejobsSteve Jobs, innovator, inventor, and game-changer died yesterday at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer.  The news of his death, while bringing on mourning of an amazing thinker, prompted those who revered and respected him to focus on his noteworthy influence on the current way we live, work, and enjoy entertainment.  It got me thinking.  What can our children learn—and how can our parenting be influenced—from looking at the contributions and life path of Steve Jobs?

  1. Enjoy what you do: Steve Jobs talked about how important it is to enjoy the work you do—and if you don’t like the work you are doing, to keep searching for what you love. As children, we all have things we have to do but there is always time to concentrate on what you love as well. What is it?  Don’t do something simply because your friend does it, all the kids in the area do it, your brother or sister did it, or your parents played it or participated in it as a child. As parents, that means, we need to step back and allow our children’s passion to emerge rather than forcing them to commit to something because of an outside reason.  Support them in trying different things and then, allow them to choose based on what they love.
  2. Encourage experimentation and creativity: No one can argue that Steve Jobs wasn’t a master at creativity.  He invented something that simply didn’t exist before. What does that say to our children? Childhood is a time of exploration.  There are such small risks—no one will dock your pay if your invention fails to work as planned, you will not be fired, tossed out on the street, or cut off from your family if you spend a few hours digging in the dirt, taking an old clock radio apart, or walking in the woods pretending you are on an animal safari. In fact, you may just discover something amazing. As a parent, that means, allow your children to feel, think, take things apart, put them back together, or make something completely different from the materials.  Let them believe that there are no wrong answers, just undiscovered ones.  They may just figure something out that will bowl you over.
  3. All paths are not conventional: After careful thought and introspection, Steve Jobs dropped out of college. He expressed that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.  Then he started taking classes that excited him.  He tells a story about taking a typography class that, while unknown at the time, influenced the various fonts that Apple provided a few years later when the personal computer was invented…in his garage.   Childhood is not a paint by numbers experience.  I’m not saying that people should drop out of school, hole up in the garage and see what happens. That would be a ridiculous interpretation. What I’m saying is that children need to take healthy risks based on insightful thought.  What are they doing simply because it is the path usually taken and what are they doing because it is the right path for them?  As parents, that means we need to ask ourselves what’s best for our specific child.  It takes strength and faith.  That may mean having your child participate in a different kind of school, activity, trip, retreat, or experience.  It may mean asking your child to spend time setting goals and envisioning what s/he really wants.  It most definitely means we need to listen–really listen–to what they have to say.
  4. Everyone has the capacity to change the world: Steve Jobs was adopted by parents who hadn’t gone to college, weren’t well off, and weren’t what someone would call “connected” to high-powered people.  What does that mean for our children? There is no excuse not to achieve your personal greatness.  Everyone has gifts to share but they must cultivate them and go for it.  As parents, that means, we need to see our children in terms of their assets rather than their deficits.  So many of parents compare, contrast, and wonder why their child falls short of a standard set by the neighbor’s son, their cousin’s daughter, or the fictitious ideal child set in the minds of the family.  When we do that, we fail to see the child who stands before us.  What is your child passionate about? What are his gifts? How can you help to ignite the S.P.A.R.K. within him so he can truly shine?
  5. There is success in failure: When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, he bought Pixar and made a huge splash with the mega-hits Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Animation techniques changed, story telling was revamped, and the movie industry was forever changed.  Our children need to learn that when they don’t make the team, don’t get the part in the play, or are even painfully cast out by a former friend, it may be just the thing that provides the space for greatness.  When I was in college, I didn’t get into a singing group I auditioned for—and I was really upset.  I found out that had I gotten in, I wouldn’t have been able to spend my Junior year abroad at my dream school, Oxford University in England.  That year abroad changed my perspective as much as it changed my life. There is success in failure.  As parents, it means that we need to help our children find the silver lining when things don’t go as planned.  We need to model being optimistic and hopeful that success comes with trying and failure is one more step towards success.  We need to point out when a gift or opportunity comes along because a previous failure made room for it.
  6. What goes around comes around: In 1996, Apple bought NeXt, and in an amazing twist of fate, Steve Jobs wound up back at Apple, helping the then struggling company come back to life.  Having left feeling embarrassed and stripped, he returned wiser and refreshed.  His innovation meant the creation of the Ipod a few years later, and Apple was back in the game with a vengeance. What can our children learn from this? They can learn that goodbye doesn’t always mean goodbye forever and that a break from what you always do may mean an opportunity for growth.  Hiatus from a relationship can allow perspective. Submerging yourself in new responsibilities can be freeing.  Learning something new can revitalize and rejuvenate. As parents, that means that there are times to ensure your child’s commitment and there are times when a break from the norm may be the best parenting choice you can make.  Time away doesn’t need to be seen as a time of interruption but rather, room for innovation.
  7. You never know: When Steve Jobs invented the personal computer, it hadn’t been done before.  When Toy Story came out, the animation was the first of its kind.  Nothing like the Ipod was ever seen previously.  We must teach our children that doing the same things everyone else does, copying other people’s work, and following in someone else’s footsteps, is not the answer to discovering one’s own gifts.  There is value in mentorship, internship, practice, and skill acquisition, of course, but don’t be afraid to do something nobody ever did because that is how inventions are created.  As parents, that means, encourage healthy risks and don’t criticize when your child’s quirks lead him on an unexpected journey (as long as its done safely and with character).  Imagine what would have happened to so many great inventions if those in the lives of those creative people continually downplayed their gifts, their ideas, and the value of their path.  We need more inventors—more girls, boys, women and men, thinking about what is possible rather than what is logical and practical.  You just never know what they’ll come up with when they are given the freedom to try.

As I sit here and write this article on my Apple MacBook Pro, I send out my appreciation to the life and innovations of Steve Jobs.  But his life is so much more than the vehicle for creation.  It is a testament to what can happen when we let creativity, curiosity, and love for our passion lead us down our path…living each day as if it were our last, until it is.

In gratitude,

drrobynsig170

 

 

 

Fighting Weight Obsession: Good Girls Don’t Get Fat Revisited

ggdgf-cover-hi-res-192x300It’s been a year since the launch of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It. The book, based on 10 years of my own research, was born out of my dissertation at Tufts University and morphed into over 200 interviews of girls and women around the US who told me their personal story about weight, body image, struggles and triumphs. The video was born out of the book and was launched on October 5, 2010.

As I just spoke to a room full of Girl Scout leaders for the Power of Popular conference this past Sunday on this topic, I had to wonder, are things getting better or worse?

Well, perhaps it’s a bit of both.  I still talk to girls and women on a weekly basis who are struggling to accept themselves as they are.  Sometimes it’s more formal, like in a speaking setting or in a coaching session. Other times, it’s very casual– reiterating that the body bully within, as I call it, it alive, well, and sabotaging the well being of our girls. In fact, I just walked into a store on Saturday to get some moisturizer for my face when one of the young women who worked there started talking about hating her body, feeling fat, and not being happy…with herself…because of it.

And that’s representative. It still is true that the majority of girls and women wish they looked different than they did.  So much so, that when I presented the statistic from my book that 95% of girls between the ages of 16-21 want to change something about their bodies, someone shouted out from the audience, “Really? Only 95%?”

And that kind of reaction isn’t that surprising, is it? Photos of incredibly thin women are still rampant in fashion magazines. Girls are still valued or devalued based on their looks, dismembered part by part, sexualized, objectified, dumbed down, and “perfected” by the media that is supposed to be a glorified, fantasized reflection of actual society. This year we’ve seen the likes of push up bikinis for 7year olds, 10 year old models in women’s Vogue dressed, styled and positioned as an adult, 4 year olds in “loungerie,” and a recent glorified Halloween costume that incited collective anger due to its depiction of “Ana-rexia” as a “sexy” personified illness.  There are many more, of course, as Toddlers & Tiaras has become more mainstream and more people feel the need to push the envelope even if it means compromising our girls.

As I listened to the frustrated and shocked expressions of the Girl Scout leaders in the audience this weekend, I knew they were hungry for solutions.  They knew the girls who we spoke of from my book– they themselves brought up girls who were having the same issues.

Thankfully, there seem to be more and more people working on behalf of girls to help them receive positive messaging about themselves and their bodies.  As this is one of the solutions I talk about in my presentations, I find it really exciting to see that solution in action.

In my book, in chapter 9, I provide my Big Black Book of amazing organizations, websites, books, and people who are doing something to make the lives of girls better. Next Thursday, October 13th, at 9pm EST, I’ll be co-leading our second #SaveGirlhood twitter party (see details about our first here) with several of these amazing people.  More details to come! But just to get your thoughts going, we’ll be talking about Halloween costumes, our girls, body image, self esteem, and overall effects of sexualization and self objectification.  Hope you’ll be there!  I will be joined by my distinguished colleagues; Nancy Gruver of New Moon Girls Magazine, Audrey Brashich- of All Made Up,  Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals, and Amy Harman, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

You’ll want to follow our faithful crew who will be leading the discussion: @PigtailPals, @BeABetterWoman, @AudreyBrashich, @DrRobyn, and @Nancy_Newmoon.

Again, more details to come.

I know that what’s being thrown at girls can seem so overwhelming.  Let’s discuss it.  There are solutions out there– and I feel so blessed that I get to work and grow along side some of them!

Please let me know what you think of the video above and what struck you about weight obsession, body image, and asset development in Good Girls Don’t Get Fat.

Wishing you an awesome day!

drrobynsig170